Two weeks ago we buried Nic’s mum. A short 6 weeks before, we were standing at the same grave burying her husband. A bittersweet union for the couple, but for Nic and his sister a different future without their mum.
Nicsma is what I called her, except to her face. I couldn’t call her anything. She never introduced me as her name- Dina, nor did she say ‘please call me…’ It was tricky at first, because in their culture, they call their in-laws ‘ma, or pa’. I couldn’t do neither. Once, she asked Nic why I didn’t call her ma. He replied that she wasn’t my ma, and it sort of ended there. I would only talk directly to her, which could be difficult when asking if she would like coffee or tea, as I would have to wait for direct eye contact before asking her in my politest way possible.
On the other hand, Nicsma called me a range of things that no one else can ever call me. Katryntjie, skoon dogtertjie, Cathiekie, my ou skoon dogter, and my slimste kind. Translated they describe how clean, old and skinny I am. I miss the way she made everything that was already small, even smaller by adding a ‘kie’ at the end of it.
Nicsma had an interesting life, she lived in the wrong era in a way, as she was very defiant and headstrong and determined to not sit still and as a result often moved house and town on the relentless pursuit of a better life. She was the younger of two children and was born into a time which was very hard and rigid and her dad sounded like a very strict tyrant who she both idolised and feared. Her adored older brother died when she was still a young and her father’s grief worsened his control of her, probably as an attempt to keep her safe. Her father passed away a year after her brother and she still talked wistfully of the loss of both men in her life.
Nicsma had married young and birthed two children, one of whom I was lucky to marry. But after a few short years of marriage, she divorced and set out in a very Calvinistic world to make a new life for her family. The scorn at the time, must have been horrific , but she never complained about it and a while later she married another man who she adored and they settled down and raised their larger family. She would always brag that she worked on the early computers, where many women did indeed compute and she loved to tell me how good a mother she was to which Nic would roll his eyes. She would haul out all his hand written notes as evidence of the fact and then he would tell me how tough she made his life. She loved music and singing and I was very impressed to hear her play the guitar so well on some old quarter inch tapes. Nic made CD’s out of all her music, and we joked that the music was so bleak of the time, that it was no wonder his mum was depressed.
She went through some really tough times in life, but found love again with ‘Pa Henk’ otherwise now known as No3. They ‘met’ through the Farmer’s weekly magazine in the ‘looking for love’ corner, and they did indeed find it with each other. Together for over 25 years, they stayed a happy loyal couple right till the end.
She was endlessly brave and daring, and loved cellphones and gadgets, even though she was often too afraid to use them unless ‘boetiekie’ showed her how to do it a few times. Always perfectly groomed with her 70’s-style bouffant hairstyle she would charm everyone in her vicinity and all the supermarket tellers would know her by name. Some of her ‘closest’ friends were pawn brokers as she regularly traded in her belongings in the pursuit of newness. A ‘wood thing’ was her prized possession and her husband made dozens of clocks and landscapes and bookcases and racks which were supposed to be sold, but she couldn’t part with any of them. Every inch of wall was covered in clocks or a black and white photo of some scary ancestor who never knew what it was to say ‘cheese’ for the camera. She was a ‘collector’ of things and space was a premium in her small homes. She had a video collection of just about every movie from the seventies and eighties and loved the fact that her son’s name would show on the credits on TV, and would promptly record 1 minute of moving names every time Nic worked on a show. In her last job she worked as a hostel ma, for a primary school and would often have to do night shift. We would hear endless stories about the kids and how she ruled over them and loved the fact that ‘Tannie Dina’ was loved by some of them. She seemed like a real peoples person, yet ironically she had very few friends, and didn’t really let people in her life apart from some chosen ones and her family.
She worried a lot, to the point where her health suffered yet she had the most cheerful laugh and a naughty sense of humour. After taking a fall four years ago, it seemed like the depressed part disappeared forever, as she no longer worried as chronically and her life took on a different filter. Unable to look after herself any longer the couple moved into a home and they settled into a new phase of a late chapter of life. Her concern for cellphones waned, and we knew that she was struggling when she no longer worried or cared for her hair or make up. Yet she would still crack a joke or two in the midst of her obsession for getting a small dog. As No 3 was taken away to hospital at the onset of his illness, she said very lucidly ‘Pa, you said you would wait for me’. Nic recalled these heartbreaking words which turned out to be so prophetic. The end of an extraordinary era. Rest in Peace Nicsma, you will be sadly missed.